Saturday, June 4, 2011

Songs from Spider Street

by Mark Howard Jones
Published by Screaming Dreams (May 12, 2010)

Single-author anthologies can be a tricky business, especially in the wake of Peter Straub’s marvelous Houses Without Doors. No longer are we content with discontiguous mashes of individual stories, we expect some sort of common thread combining them into a larger story. Don’t get me wrong, it is possible to get away with a randomized collection of self, but you sure as hell better kick the door of its hinges if you’re going with that approach.

From the back blurb of Songs From Spider Street, one would be tempted to believe this to be a themed anthology based within the confines of a single, decrepit Parisian street abandoned by all except the hollow echoes of songs spun by our sweet little arachnid friends and the introduction continues to build this illusion. Unfortunately, it becomes readily apparent quite quickly that this is not the case and the throbbing miscellany of tales present do little to recommend reading.

The biggest problem is that the majority of stories are revelatory instead of plot drive and dependant upon revelations that an aware reader will see coming from the title alone (see if you can guess where the guy in “A Hell of a Place” is) or at least the first few paragraphs. “Muse” should be an exception, rising above this problem in the way it deals with the extents some are willing to go through for the creation of art but collapses in on itself because he does not take the time to build a strong sense of the artists obsession and whizzes past his main unforgivable act to get to the punch line. The plot is interesting enough most of the time, but the story that drives the plot is sorely lacking.

The other big killer for me is Mr. Jones’ preference for style over substance that often results in clumsy, overwrought language that gets in between the reader and the story. As an example, viddy these lines from “Mirrorcle”: “A face lost forever to the cruel kiss of hot tarmac; a love abandoned forever to the cleansing fervour of the flames. The same squealing song of death and despair replays in her head every day that she continues to go on living.”

I’m sure I’m making this sound worse than it actually is. Songs is not actively bad. The stories are quick and most have an interesting idea at their heart, but the aforementioned problems robbed me of an ability to enjoy them.

Buy it here.

Reviewed by Anton Cancre.

Anton Cancre is one of those rotting, pus-filled thingies on the underside of humanity that your mother always warned you about. He has oozed symbolic word-farms onto the pages of Shroud, Sex and Murder and Horrorbound magazines as well as The Terror at Miskatonic Falls, an upcoming poetry anthology by Shroud Publishing and continues to vomit his oh-so-astute literary opinions, random thoughts and nonsense at No, he won't babysit you pet shoggoth this weekend. Stop asking.

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